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Your classic F1 season finale

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Andrew Benson | 10:15 UK time, Wednesday, 28 October 2009

We have a little end-of-season treat for all those of you who have been following our classic grand prix series this year.

Our final selection was of great season finales - four of them title deciders at the final race of the season, a title decider at the penultimate race, and one, like this weekend's inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, a last race held after the championship had been won.

Our normal practice has been to select one race to highlight - a choice that is informed by respondents on this blog - and to show the full 'Grand Prix' highlights programme that was broadcast at the time for that as well as the shorter clips we cut for all the races.

But this time we have decided to give you a two-for-one offer, and we will show the 'Grand Prix' programme for two of the races.

Partly this is because, although there was one race that was clearly the most popular, two dominated your preferences to such an extent that even the one that came second in terms of your selection got three times the 'votes' of the next choice.

I was actually quite surprised that the 1980 US Grand Prix East was the most popular choice, for which the 'Grand Prix' programme is here:

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It was a late pick after we discovered that we did not have a complete tape of the 1997 title decider at Jerez in Spain between Jacques Villeneuve and Michael Schumacher - which I suspected might have proved the 'winner' had we been able to use it. And I have to admit that, without that race in the selection, I thought the 1988 Japanese Grand Prix would be the runaway choice among respondents here.

That race at Suzuka was one of Ayrton Senna's greatest drives, the one which clinched his first world title, and I thought admiration for the late, great Brazilian would win the day. In the end, it was the second most popular choice among respondents.

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Watch short highlights of the 1980 US Grand Prix East
Watch short highlights of the 1981 Las Vegas Grand Prix
Watch short highlights of the 1983 South African Grand Prix
Watch short highlights of the 1984 Portuguese Grand Prix
Watch short highlights of the 1988 Japanese Grand Prix

It seems that the enticing prospect of seeing some action from the little-talked-about 1980 season swung it, so we have the new world champion Alan Jones's stirring drive to victory at Watkins Glen after his Williams had slipped down to 14th place at the end of the first lap.

The highlights will be on satellite and cable in the UK from 0900 GMT on Thursday 29 October until 0800 on Friday 30 October. Because of a lack of bandwidth, they will be only be available on Freeview channel 301 from 1040 GMT on Friday 30 October until 1230 GMT, which is in between the first two practice sessions from Abu Dhabi.

This was the last year of F1 cars with the famous 'sliding skirts', which provided a seal between the sidepods and the track. These allowed a full 'venturi effect' to be created under the cars, producing immense ground effect and, by extension, enormous cornering speeds.

These 'skirts' were at the heart of one of the bitterest political rows ever to hit F1. Concern about rapidly escalating cornering speeds had been rising all year, and the death of Alfa Romeo driver Patrick Depailler in a test at Hockenheim intensified it. Deciding that skirts were making the cars too dangerous and rendering the tracks obsolete, the powers that be banned them for 1981.

This led to one of the most ludicrous seasons in F1 history. The rules dictated that the cars should have a 6cm ground clearance. But this was only measurable in the pits, so the engineers soon followed Brabham's lead in fitting suspension which lowered them as soon as they were out on the track. So, after the first couple of races, every car that year was illegal...

After this farce, skirts were allowed again in 1982, but they were not allowed to slide. That meant that cars had to be fitted with rock-hard suspension, a contributing factor to one of F1's more lethal seasons of the modern age. It cost the lives of the Ferrari legend Gilles Villeneuve and Italian novice Riccardo Paletti, while the career of Villeneuve's team-mate Didier Pironi was ended in a horrific accident.

The other choices, of which we have shorter highlights packages, are the 1981 Las Vegas Grand Prix, held in a car park of the Caesars Palace Hotel, the 1983 South African Grand Prix, and the 1984 Portuguese Grand Prix - one of Murray Walker's choices for his five favourite races at the start of the year.

I went into detail about the circumstances surrounding those races in my blog last week.

I hope you enjoy the videos. Now, to round off, I will address just a couple of issues some of you raised in your responses.

First, why did we not choose the 1986 Australian Grand Prix in a selection of classic title deciders/season finales? As several of you pointed out, we included this in our classic Australia selection in March.

Second, why not Japan 1976? Again, this was in our Japanese Grand Prix selection.

Thanks for your offer of sending in your VHS copies of the 1997 European GP, but I'm afraid the quality of the resulting file would not be of high enough quality for broadcast.

Finally, I'd like to thank you for all the support you have given this series this year. We are delighted you like it so much - yes, even those of you who have taken us to task for the way we have operated it! - and we give you our guarantee that it will be back on the eve of the 2010 season.


  • Comment number 1.

    In a word: Brilliant.

    This series has been awesome from start to finish, and I'm thrilled to have it back for another season. 1991 was a classic season and a gap to be filled!

    Thanks for giving us two highlights in full to finish the year. You've worked very hard on this, and we're all very grateful indeed.

  • Comment number 2.

    Excellent choice and an excellent series all year. Many Thanks

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Andrew, many thanks for showing these races all through the year. Its been great!


  • Comment number 4.

    'Pit Bits' and then 'Ivory Tower'! Brilliant!

  • Comment number 5.

    Why is a marathon being show instead of the F1 forum?

  • Comment number 6.

    What we have to wait for 2010 for more goodies.... Can't you find some way to wangle us stuff to fight off the inter-season shakes?

  • Comment number 7.

    The videos are not working!!! When will it be fixed?

  • Comment number 8.

    Have to thank you for an excellent series of articles and feeds ... brought back a load of memories and made me realise why I love the sport of F1.

  • Comment number 9.

    160. At 4:28pm on 27 Oct 2009, you wrote:
    There's 19 weeks between the end of this season and the start of the 2010 season, that's a long time for all us hardcore formula one fans, so I really hope that the BBC will consider carrying on showing classic F1 Races over the winter, in fact you could hold a vote to pick a classic F1 season, and then play one of the races each week that makes up that season. Now that would be great! What does everyone else think?

    That's a tough call picking you favourite F1 season, maybe 1991 would be my choice, great battle between Senna & Mansell.

    By the way I would thank you all for the excellent job you've done this year, keep up the good work.

    Please do consider, 'Pick Your Classic F1 Season' for the long winter months!

  • Comment number 10.

    Or how about a bi-daily series of world championship deciders starting from the very beginning?

  • Comment number 11.

    Why wasn't Mexio 1964 included in the vote?

  • Comment number 12.

    I am sorry but why no 2007? That was apart from 1986 the best finale to a season ever. It wasnt on the brazil ones. Why? Is it because BBC just dont like Kimi?

  • Comment number 13.

    Ah thanks Andrew for 2 full BBC highlights programmes!

    What a great segment you and the BBC have put on. Once again congratulations and thanks from all the fans who've wanted to catch this footage for years.

  • Comment number 14.

    Many Thanks for this feature Andrew, and also a big thanks for sticking with it despite some moaning posts over the last few months asking questions that you have always addressed, usually before the question has even been asked if people bothered to read your blog every week. I'm sure you'll be cutting and pasting the same responses next year to the same questions.

    Sure i'd like to see full length 30 minute highlights for all the classic GPs, but i'm a realist and know that this is a minority interest if we're honest (which it is in the great scheme of things the BBC are obliged to broadcast).

    Try to give the archive department a nudge to get into shape over the winter as you have mentioned on a couple of occasions that it is in a bit of a mess with regards to some of the older races, and try and get some regular Freeview slots sorted for next year if possible, no matter what the time.

    Very much appreciated.

  • Comment number 15.

    Being of a certain age (!) I think it’s fantastic to see pictures of some of these 80's generation GP cars proving their worth on the forgotten tracks of the world. I’m too young to remember the ground effect cars so I have always held them with a sort of mystical regard, probably due to their cornering speeds and their spine shattering suspension! It’s great to see how F1 has evolved over the last 20 or so years although sometimes I wish the racing was as close as it used to be!

  • Comment number 16.

    Simply great stuff thanks for doing this all season, it has really been a pleasure to watch all these old highlights. I hope that you can continue this for next season and maybe one day make the Grand Prix archive available of all the races for us to access.

    Thanks again I'm looking forward to seeing some of Senna's great driving again :)


  • Comment number 17.

    My main gripe with the 'Classics' has been the scheduling for Freeview viewers but all in all its been fantastic to see greats like Gilles and Piquet in their prime when at the time I was in nappies and learning to crawl.

    Thank you Andrew and the BBC for your efforts.

  • Comment number 18.

    Again, thanks for this. I will enjoy this and will be looking forward to the "Classic GP" in the future.

  • Comment number 19.

    Thanks Andrew, A super finish to a super feature. Brilliant decision to show two of the full programmes.

    Cant' wait for this feature next year. As some people have said before, is there any chance of some 'Classic F1' over the off season. March is a long time to wait for without a Grand Prix fix.

    How about showing some of the full Grand Prix highlights programmes for the choices that missed out at various races this year.

    They must have been prepared in case they won the popular vote at the time and it would be a shame to waste them. As you've already said, none of the choices from this year will be included in 2010, so how about it?

    Keep up the good work and thanks once again.

  • Comment number 20.

    Thanks Andy for such a wonderful feature, which has helped to build the anticipation towards the upcoming race. Looking forward to seeing what ones you come up with next year.

    It's a pity there is a minority who moan (i echo #14's sentiments entirely), i'm surprised you can put up with having to answer the same daft questions every fortnight from people who don't bother to read your previous answers...
    (I suspect that's me getting a telling off again but i don't care)

    A big thank you also to the majority of blog contributors - i'm thankful there are still some genuinely knowledgable F1 fans out there who appreciate the sport's rich history and i particularly enjoy reading their comments (which is more than could be said for my enjoyment of the 'minority'....) sorry i can't remember you by name but you know who you are!!

    See you all in 2010

  • Comment number 21.

    Completely Off topic........

    Is anybody else questioning the logic behind Bernie Ecclestons lack of commitment to a British Grand Prix??

    The last 2 winners of the Formula 1 championship have been british, Brawn GP are a british team and many of the teams have their main bases in Britain!!! Doesn't that kind of signify that Britain is one of the biggest countries in F1?!?!?

    I'm very confused as to why Bernie is being so anti-british towards the British GP, its ridiculous! I know somebody will disagree with me but can somebody please shed some light on this subject???

  • Comment number 22.


    Bernie's a businessman end of. To him it doesn't matter if the UK has produced more world champions, or if it's the technical hub of F1, the fact is, they don't pay up much!!!

    Now, a country that has NO motorsport heritage whatsoever, with a track in the middle of a desert with no peasants (sorry, spectators) in the grandstands but plenty of folks in the corporate hospitality? And they pay you in barrels of oil? Now that's more like it!

    (Please note the above is not factually correct but is merely the opinion of swrcsky)

  • Comment number 23.

    AB: "Finally, I'd like to thank you for all the support you have given this series this year. We are delighted you like it so much - yes, even those of you who have taken us to task for the way we have operated it! - and we give you our guarantee that it will be back on the eve of the 2010 season."

    Thanks in return, Andrew. As one who had a gripe about the execution (esp on Freeview) rather than the idea, I hope that criticism has been received in the manner in which it has been intended. It's the inconsistency which has been the most frustrating, and how some programmes get repeated ad nauseum (the current one is Shirley Bassey's concert), while Classic GPs gets shoe-horned into nooks and crannies. BBC Three's service is another matter...

    (FYI: The BBC Trust is running a survey about the Red Button services, including Auntie's sports coverage, which contributors here might like to go see.)

    I'm delighted that the service will return, and hope that the edges will be smoothed in 2010. Unfortunately I've had PC probs, so have not been able to participate lately, but have been glad of the chance to do so. Thanks again.

    However, I have a suggestion. Early on, the RB archive shows repeated the Ayrton Senna documentary made in 1994 (there was no 'Grand Prix' highlights show as such for Imola that year, but there was no SMGP this year either!), and apart from cutting up "Two Laps of Honour" for Monaco and Germany, it was the only documentary shown. It might be nice to see a few more, maybe between grands prix.

    Given the blog has been looking at wing cars, it might be an idea next year (if the opportunity arises) to dig up an old 'Horizon' programme called "Gentlemen, Please Raise Your Skirts", which covered the controversy over ground effects and sliding skirts circa 1981/2/3 (can't recall the exact year it was transmitted). At the time I was just getting back into F1 after a few years discovering beer and women, and a lot had changed since JYS had retired. I found that one useful to explain the science, and it might be again for those who are now familiarising themselves with F1 history, having 'caught the petrol bug' from the BBC's coverage and JB's title. I'm sure there are a number of other F1-related features in the archive that could do the same.

    Unedited versions of "The Power and the Glory" over the Winter anyone?!

  • Comment number 24.

    Some great choices there but what's going on with Freeview? "Lack of bandwidth" should mean that there's something interesting on, not a repeat of the same thing that's been replayed over and over again for the last 3 days. If you could get it sorted out for next season, it would be perfect, but at the moment it seems like us people who are unable to afford Sky have to have a bit of a raw deal.

  • Comment number 25.

    #12 It wasn't that great a race, nor as dramatic as its successor. Kimi winning the WDC based on a mechanical problem and not seriously being challenged by his team-mate for the lead isn't the making of a great finale in my opinion!

    2006 should have been on this list, really (though it would never have won because of being an ITV race).

    Still, I'm sure even though I'd never heard of half of these races before, I'll enjoy them! Thanks for this great feature, Andrew, and I hope we get goodies over the winter! Pick you favourite F1 season with 5-minute or full highlights (whichever is easier for you to run) would be a great idea!

  • Comment number 26.

    Those of you hoping for more freeview coverage better read this blog:

  • Comment number 27.

    I've just read that blog..... thanks for posting it on here dthompson10...... Its not good news at all!

    Oh, plus for some reason my comment is going to be moderated as i'm an new member on the other blog....!

  • Comment number 28.

    It's Been A Fantastic Season In 2009, But With Those Cold Winter Months Ahead Of Us After The Final Round Of This Years Championship, I Think A Winter Treat For Us Commited F1 Fans, Namely Some Complete Races And Maybe Include The Qualifying Rounds Too ! Come On Auntie Beeb ! We All Know You've Got This Material In Your Dusty Underground Vaults, I Say Put It Out There And Let It See The Light Of Day Before It Turns To Dust! So - Complete Races, Qualifying, And All Sorts Of Long Forgoten F1 Specials! There Thats You Busy Over Winter, And Us The Loyal Fans Very Happy Indeed! ( Plezzzzzzzzeee )

  • Comment number 29.

    Thanks for all the classic F1 action over the last 19 race weekends. For next season could it be possible that the 5 choices chosen are fresh choices and not a repeat of the 5 choices from this season. I know for the newer tracks that this is not possible but for the classic events a fresh choice would be nice to see.

    Also can we see some classic action during the winter.


  • Comment number 30.

    Good race choices but for next year please please can the BBC sort out the bandwidth issue somehow? We here love it when it is on Freeview on Thursday as it makes our F1 weekend longer and better. I don't know how you can improve this but it must be possible? Either that or use BBC 3 during the day when it is not being used?

  • Comment number 31.

    Just wanted to say thanks for the classic F1 this year, I only started watching F1 in about 1994 so a lot of these are totally new to me, and a great way to fill an afternoon when there's not much going on at the office! With these, the Forum and everything else, the coverage this year has been fantastic.

  • Comment number 32.

    Hi tj,

    BBC 3 is cbeebies during the day, so that's being used.

  • Comment number 33.

    Is there any chance of getting live winter tests on the red button?

  • Comment number 34.

    Great job for the whole season Andrew. It's been a wonderful season and the BBC's coverage and interactivity with the drivers, teams and sport in general has been top notch. I'm sure you guys will enjoy some rest over the winter, whilst the rest of us suffer withdrawal symptoms

    I'm looking forward to the last race this weekend... but looking forward to 2010's opener even more! If Jenson can successfully defend his title, and indeed the Brawns defending the Constructors... well that would be quite special wouldn't it? ;-)

  • Comment number 35.

    thanks andrew cracking series!!!!
    its good to see these old races that other wise we would never see again and to left with the fond distant memories of drivers and the skill they had
    drivers today take things for granted drivers back then were responsable for the set ting up of ther car they fed that info to the mehanics and they fiddled with there spanners till it was right no t/c flappy paddles or switches on the steering wheels the cars today are basicly remote control should all this be taken away you wouldent be able to count on one hand who would cope for me its all been taken to far
    i hope for more rule changes that make drivers drive and give mechanics more to do on cars
    looks like this weekends race could be a cracker at a new track that looks brill

    and again excelent series!!!!

  • Comment number 36.

    F1 forum should be on BBC Two after the race. Doesn't matter about what BBC2 wants to show

  • Comment number 37.

    BBC parliament on Freeview should become BBC sport. Agree or Disagree?

  • Comment number 38.

    Great work with this stuff this year, Andrew. Of course, you're never going to please all the people all the time but it's been so good seeing this kind of stuff after too many years of ITV disinterest. Many thanks!

  • Comment number 39.

    I was a little late to these red button repeats and would love to obtain DVD copies of some of the complete highlights shown over the first 6 rounds this year. Can anyone help?



  • Comment number 40.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 41.

    What about the 1990 Australian GP? It was a top race and featured an exciting finished as Mansell charged after Piquet. Certainly one of the best finales. See here:

  • Comment number 42.

    USA 1980: Certainly a few curiosities here - for one Hunt's snarkiness over drivers warming up their tyres - something that everyone takes for granted nowadays.

    Secondly, the pre-race championship table had Piquet eight points behind Jones yet Jones had already been crowned world champion. What the hell?

    Thirdly, Murray was talking about possible political trouble coming into 1981 - I thought the worst of the trouble from that era had passed by mid-1980.

    Overall: A brilliant service that has become a ritual on Grand Prix weekends. Nice one!

  • Comment number 43.

    MGUK82 the points were different then!!!!!

  • Comment number 44.

    Can I join those who are asking for some more classic highlights through the winter. And PLEASE can we have them on the iplayer as well on "catch up"? Much better being able to start it when we want without having to hog the PC.

  • Comment number 45.

    MGUK82 - the political trouble had by no means passed by mid-1980. The FISA/FOCA war came to a head at Imola in 1982 with the FOCA boycott.

  • Comment number 46.

    MGUK82, best 5 out of 7 scores counted in the first, and second, halves of the season. Had Piquet won at The Glen he would have had to have dropped his 2 points gained at Austria, so a win would only have been worth 7 points, not enough to have beaten Jonesy.

  • Comment number 47.

    I hope Hamilton crashes today... that will be great for the sport!

    Mclaren have a fast car, put Kimi in the team and Raikkonen would be a tenth quicker than Lewis!

  • Comment number 48.

    Dear Andrew,

    I can't remember who it was but one person suggested a "Classic Season" feature, with each race from that season repeated over the winter break. I think that is a SUPERB idea.

    I was the original advocate of the "Classic Races" idea (Autosport, July 3rd 2008. I still have the issue!), and this idea is brilliant. Please consider it!

    Best regards,

    Gianni Fasulo.

  • Comment number 49.


    Is there a place we can complain about the iPlayer and the lack of coverage for todays race?

    It is now 20:00 GMT and there is no sign of the race on the iPlayer at all, only the quali from yesterday.

    Add to that the fact that I've just had to come here via the main F1 page on the BBC and found out the result.

    One very unhappy F1 fan and very disappointed in the BBC person!

  • Comment number 50.

    thanks for classic f1 coverage see you next season

  • Comment number 51.

    domtv09, what an utterly ludicrous thing to write.

  • Comment number 52.

    41. At 7:21pm on 30 Oct 2009, Mattikake wrote:
    What about the 1990 Australian GP? It was a top race and featured an exciting finished as Mansell charged after Piquet. Certainly one of the best finales. See here:

    The video has been removed from youtube

  • Comment number 53.

    Great to see the The Glen race from 1980 on the Freeview service between Abu Dhabi practice 1 & 2 sessions. Glad us "freeviewers" have access to the sport we love!!!

    Can't believe the safety benefits of catch-fencing to protect the drivers. How dangerous was it to have chicken wire and hefty wooden posts as a safety system. When Patrese crashed he couldn't get out of the car as he was trapped under the fencing and then a marshal with bolt cutters had to release him. I was shocked to see this, but then with hindsight and the safety of modern F1 thank God progress has been made.

    Sad that the highlights won't continue in the closed season.

    Suggestions for you Andrew to take away and think about...
    How about a driver profile on Tom Pryce, the only Formula One driver from Wales. Is there any footage of him racing in F1, championship and non championship races?

    How about showing the profiles on Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill and Ayrton Senna TV shows that were shown when they were still racing.

    Last point, excited to hear that Lotus will be back for 2010. When I go to work I pass the original factory/showroom in Hornsey, North London. Wouldn't it be great to have a museum here?

  • Comment number 54.



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